Saturday, March 19, 2011

Right Brain vs. Left Brain

I heard an interesting idea the other day pertaining to writer's block, but it could relate to almost anything. We know the right half of the human brain controls your creativity, while the left half controls the logic, right? Some of us are more right brain oriented, while others operate using more of the left side. 

I think I'm somewhere right down the middle. My dad is all right brained, my mom all left. I can literally pin point which thoughts/actions of mine are from my mom or dad. Dad is the artist/story-teller. Mom is the reader and mathematician. An interesting combination--kind of a yin and yang type balance. But I learned early on which one to go to for what. I didn't go to Mom when I wanted help drawing a picture. I didn't go to Dad when I needed help with a math problem. Make sense?

So this theory I heard from author Michael Levin is that writers get writer's block when they're trying to do it all at once. The right side of their brain is trying to create the story, while the left side is trying to organize it. This combined focus results in a road block of sorts. The flow is dammed.

The solution is to stop trying to use both sides of your brain at once. This could apply to anything creative where we seem to find ourselves in a rut. In writing--and probably true for any art--we must learn to control each side of our brain in order to keep the flow. This means we have to write that first draft no matter how sloppy or unorganized it is. We just have to DO it. No need to worry about anything except getting the words and ideas out. This would be focusing on the RIGHT side of your brain ONLY.

Then, once we have our first (and dreadfully rough) draft, you can begin revisions focusing on using the LEFT side of your brain only. Do the details of your story make sense? The sentence structure? The organization? Do you need to rearrange some chapters, or add some in? Maybe even delete entirely?

If we look at it this way, it makes so much more sense. If we learn when to use which side of our brains when, we can become more creative and not hit the proverbial block. Personally, I haven't hit writer's block. I think I hit the opposite and can't figure out when to turn it off. LOL. But I know many writers do come to a stalemate in their work. Or maybe it has more to do with motivation. Perhaps focusing on one side of your brain will eliminate the stress and apprehesion of continuing when you feel unmotivated. Again, it's the yin and yang balance of the brain.... just like my parents. We have to figure out which side we need, and when.

On a side note, I'm SO behind at visiting blogs. I'm sorry, my bleeps! I'm trying... really really trying to make my rounds. Seems I've got these other obligations (family, dayjob, housework) holding me back. But I'll get there. Sending you all lots of blog lurve and wishing you the best of the weekend. 

We're off to go camping and I'm so looking forward to romancing my muse with nature all weekend. ;)

What about you? Any plans for romancing your muse? What about right brain vs. left? Are you more one than the other, or split down the middle like me? Do tell ...

22 comments:

Michael Di Gesu said...

I like this post, PK.

Interesting how you analyzed writer's block.

For me, I think I am three quarters right and one quarter left. I am far more creative in my thinking, but I do have that anal organizational side.

Enjoy your weekend camping. The weather down here is FANTABULOUS!

Catherine Stine said...

I agree with you on that brain to draft thing. It's mostly right brain for me during that first draft. And I'm a little behind on visiting blogs too, so I'm making an effort to post on my fave blogs.
I have to spend most of the day correcting english proficiency exams--so no work on my WIP today. I did manage to cloister myself Wed thru Fri to get 22 pages. That doesn't seem like enough but it's a heckuva lot better than zero! I'm inching toward the finish line on that draft, and it always gets really slow at this point.

Melissa Bradley said...

Very cool take on writers block. I'm more Right brained with a wicked stubborn Left that pops up occasionally. I'm mulling over this post because it's giving me another way to think about my current creative situation.

Have fun camping and sending some blog lurve right back at you. :)

DM said...

I am so totally right brained, I'm surprised I don't fall over more often or look lopsided. When I am with my muses, it's like I turn off my left brain entirely. It is rare for me to have writer's block. This was an interesting blog. Now I know why I'm up in the clouds all day and rarely down to earth. come on, left brain, time to increase your strength. Lift that logic, 1,2,3

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm an even mix as well. Interesting solution for writer's block.

Mary Vaughn said...

Well, that explains a lot. When I get stuck I organize something and that clears my head and opens ideas.

Natalie Murphy said...

This was a really interesting post! It makes a lot of sense.

Have fun camping!!! It's far too cold here to go camping yet ;)

Carla White said...

I'm definitely more right brained by a long shot, which is why I think I already do what you suggest and get all of the thoughts out while they're fresh and then revisit later to organize and make sense of it. Great post! Hope camping is fun... I'd love to be out in nature romancing my muse; unfortunately, spring has only briefly peeked her head out and today it's back to winter. Still a little chilly to camp.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Heaven knows what my brain is like I'm epiletic, I know I have what they call "Right Tempoaral Lobe" Epilepsy which means that controls the smells I smell but as for anything else concerning writing I don't know.
Interesting thought though.

Yvonne.

IanBontems said...

Great post, I'm definitely a left side of the brain kinda guy. I can't stop looking at what I've wrote and HAVE to go back and correct errors or superficial structure problems when I see them. I wish I wasn't, it would be a lot faster writing without looking back at everything.

Kathryn said...

I've always been predominantly right-brained, but lately, I've started to embrace any left-brained tendencies that I have to use for my creativity. As a teen, I never enjoyed math or science or physics, but now, I've found there's a symmetrical beauty in those worlds, and a strange, almost religious fascination about where they come from, philosophically. Total nerdgasm.

Florence said...

Being left-handed, what they call Lefty Louie, I am already conflicted. My right does what my left should do and visa-versa ... what a mess.

I keep moving and let them worry about sorting it all out. :)

I pretend to ignore my blocks, turn on music or read another book, watch TV or flip to a movie. After I get my juices flowing ... I go back to work.

Have a good time stroking your muse.

James Garcia Jr said...

I had never heard that before, PK. Very interesting. I think I'm like you - right down the middle. I have yet to hit any writer's block. Only time will tell, right?
I'm also with you about being tied up and unable to blog as much as I would like. I used to be pretty faithful with regard to #WW and #FF on Twitter and I haven't been able to do that either.
*sigh*
I hope you have a great weekend,

-Jimmy

William Kendall said...

Terrific blog, PK, and a good handle on the problem of writers' block too.

Like you, I'm behind on ye olde blog reading too...

Laura said...

Very interesting... this got me thinking. I think I'm all right side at home and all left side at work - there's a complete clash in the middle somewhere that gives me life-block, let alone writer's block.
I love the idea of romancing my muse - maybe I'll take her to the cinema for a first date
Lx

McKenzie McCann said...

Here, here! That's why I am a pantser. I believe very strongly in just letting it flow. I abhor outlines. They get in the way of my creativity. Now, there is an explanation behind it. I thank you.

Johnny Utah said...

My muse is an over-sized burrito and I romanced the hell out of it yesterday!

I'm new here BTW. Good stuff. Check me out if you get a chance.

Nas Dean said...

Amazing blog post, PK. And so true.

Thanks.

Carla said...

I love the idea of romancing my muse with nature! This was a very interesting take on writer's block...I'm also on the opposite end...by the time I get to write I have plenty to say, and it lasts until long after my "writing time" ends!

Carla

Connie Arnold said...

I agree with you, and you have a good suggestion. Using the creative side of your brain to write, then switching over to edit and organize seems like a great plan!

M Pax said...

Very interesting take on block. I bet it's often true.

Michelle Gregory said...

i think i'm both brained as well. lately i've been playing with Flame Painter as a way to let the right side play and hopefully get it to come out and help me work on my current draft.

btw, i just saw you have the Friends for the Journey blog encouragement. congrats. it's nice to see it making the rounds.